Maple chilli tomato chutney

At the end of the tomato season, some rather sad and motley specimens were left on the plants on my balcony. They ranged from over-ripe and bursting to bright green and rock-hard, and yet I didn’t want to throw them away. Then along came a post about using late crop tomatoes in chutney from the lovely Sharon McMaster of Kindergarden Cooks which inspired me to do this:


Half a red onion

500 g tomatoes of all colours, sizes and levels of ripeness.

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 small, hot, red chilli

Piece of ginger root, about 2cm.

1 tsp paprika

Salt and pepper

What to do, roughly speaking:

Chop the onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and chili very finely

Place all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer for an hour

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Turn up the heat and boil, stirring frequently, until the chutney begins to become sticky.

Leave to cool and place in sterilised jars.

Lovely in a cheese sandwich, to glaze chicken wings before roasting, or just on it’s own on crackers.


If life gives you onions..

This one really is in the original spirit of Essex Road Recipes: local shops, banter, supportive communities and meals improvised around what’s available.

Since the sad and infuriating closure of The Market Garden (a family business closed down following the purchase of their site by a property developer in 2018, and yet still an abandoned shell) I’ve been shopping for fruit and veg from the stallholders in Chapel Market. Like the late Market Garden, they have low prices, fresh produce and excellent *banter. The perfect combination.

I was there yesterday and the stallholder had a surfeit of onions and apples. He offered me 10 of each for £1. I explained that, since I live on my own and still can’t invite friends over to dinner, it was unlikely that I’d find a use for 10 onions before they started to rot. Cue banter; cutting the price of onions and crying all the way to the bank, if life gives you onions make onionade, how the garden of Eden story might have ended differently if there had been 10 apples to choose from, if Eve had offered Adam an onion instead of an apple would their relationship have ended in tears, 10 days without a doctor…..

So, of course, I took the 10 onions and the 10 apples.

I had decided to make French onion soup and to juice the apples for breakfast. But then I had an improv foodie idea; French onion soup traditionally requires a little sugar to caramelise the onions in the early stages of the process. What if I were to use grated apple instead?

So I did, and it’s not as sticky as the original, but it is delicious.


50g butter and 1 tbsp olive oil

10 medium onions. Sliced thinly but not chopped.

Half an apple, grated.

4 garlic cloves – finely chopped

2 tbsp sieved plain flour

250 ml white wine

1 litre beef stock

8 small slices of baguette

140g grated cheese. Ideally comte, emmental, gruyere or mature Irish cheddar

What to do, roughly speaking

Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan.

Fry the onions on a high heat for a couple of minutes, then turn down the heat, cover the pan and let the onions sweat for another 10 minutes.

Add the grated apple, turn up the heat a little and keep cooking, stirring frequently for another 15 minutes – the onions should be brown and sticky, but be careful not to burn them.

Add the chopped garlic and keep frying and stirring for another 5 minutes.

Sprinkle on the flour and mix in well.

Turn up the heat, add the wine and stir well to make sure that the flour doesn’t turn lumpy, then add the stock.

Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Just before serving, fry the bread on one side in a little olive oil, turn it over and sprinkle the grated cheese on the other side. Hold the pan under a hot grill for a minute to melt the cheese.

Ladle your soup into the serving bowls and place a slice (or 2) of the cheesy bread on top of each one.

Note: If anyone has perfected an elegant way to eat French onion soup, do share in the comments below. Otherwise, I shall continue to be grateful that I live alone and can allow my table manners to slide down the scale from “average” to “appalling”.

*non-UK Anglophones, banter = friendly, playful, sometimes teasing conversation.

Scallops. Irresistible.

Revisiting the Essex Road recipe for scallops today, but I didn’t have breadcrumbs so spiced it up a little with a few chili flakes. Not too much – didn’t want to swamp the flavour. They were delicious. Thanks Steve Hatt Fishmongers – you are the best! Original recipe is below the photo.

12 scallops (for 4 people as a starter)

A cup of breadcrumbs.

Salt, pepper

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

2 finely chopped garlic cloves.

1 small red chilli finely chopped (optional)

a handful of finely chopped parsley or coriander leaf.

Juice of 1 lime

Olive oil or butter to fry the scallops.

What to do.

Mix breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, garlic, smoked paprika (and chilli if you like it spicy) and spread this mix out on a plate or large shallow dish. Coat the scallops in the breadcrumb mix by pressing them gently into it, first one side and then the other. Make sure that the scallops are dry for this stage, otherwise the breadcrumb mix will get lumpy.

Pop the plate of breaded scallops in the fridge for about an hour before you fry them

Heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan until its really hot. You need enough space to keep the scallops apart so do in two batches if your pan isn’t big enough to spread them all out.

Pop the scallops in the hot oil and fry for 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Turn them very gently using a fish slice or a spoon.

Sprinkle with lime juice and chopped coriander or parsley and serve with a salad made with green leaves (spinach, cos lettuce, watercress) and sliced raw red and yellow peppers, or, for a main course, with spaghetti.

Spicy baked buffalo wings

If you’re anything like me and some of the friends I’ve been talking to, your table manners will have gone to sh1t lately. After all, we’ve all been eating at home alone, or with close and hopefully tolerant family and friends. So, why not eat sticky, spicy chicken wings with your fingers and make a real mess? 


12 buffalo wings

3 crushed garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp mixed paprika and smoked paprika

1 tbsp Henderson’s Yorkshire Relish (or Worcestershire sauce if you must)

1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 or 3 tbsp hot sauce (depending on your tolerance of hot sauce..) I used Baron Blazing Hot Sauce.

2 tbsp maple syrup (you can use honey, but for me the slight smokiness of maple syrup gives a more interesting flavour and stands up better to the hot sauce)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the buffalo wings and mix it all around so that the wings are coated in sauce.

Leave to marinate for a few hours.

Pre-heat oven to 180ºC/Gas mark 4

Put a little olive oil in a large roasting tray, warm it up in the oven.

Lift the wings out of the marinade sauce (keep the sauce) and place them in the hot oil

Cook for 30 minutes

Turn up the oven to 200ºC/ Gas mark 6, add back the remaining sauce, turn the wings over so that they’re fully coated, and cook for another 20 minutes.

Let them cool a little, and then eat them as messily as you like.

Spicy pumpkin, lentil and apple stoup

I hear that some of you are still valiantly trying to use up the leftover pumpkin. Here’s a stoup recipe for you from the Essex Road Recipe card collection. What do you mean, you never heard of stoup? Where stew meets soup…


200 g red lentils

The flesh of 1 small, innocent pumpkin that never did anyone any harm, chopped into small pieces.

1 eating apple, chopped into small pieces. Leave the skin on. (Throw the core away, or give it to a crow. Crows are my favourite birds.)

A piece of root ginger about the size of a small frog’s leg – peeled and thinly sliced

Teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small red chilli chopped up small

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon salt

a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaf

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Place lentils in a large saucepan in twice their own volume of water with the ginger, turmeric and a splash of oil. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are almost cooked – about 40 minutes.

Smash up the chilli, cumin and coriander in a pestle and mortar (or put them in a Ziploc bag and bash them with a hammer – on a sturdy surface of course!). Fry the spices in some of the oil and then add the pumpkin to the frying pan. Keep the pumpkin pieces moving around until they are coated in the spice mix and beginning to soften and brown at the edges. Then toss in the apple for a couple of minutes.

Add the spiced up pumpkin and apple to the lentils. Add a little more water if the lentils are almost dry. Put the lid on tight and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the lentils are properly cooked and the pumpkin and apple soft.

Serve as a stew with basmati rice or, if it’s a little thinner, as a soup with some of Raab’s chia seed bread.

Your fish is my command. (See what I did there?)

The folks at Steve Hatt only have to mention fish pie on their Facebook page and here I am with a recipe for you. Just like that.

The smoked haddock in Steve Hatt is a lovely pale yellow because it is actually smoked. That luminous yellow stuff you sometimes see vacuum-packed in supermarkets has been dyed to make it look more smoked. There are many ways to make fish pie. Some people add eggs or poach the fish in milk but I like mine a little lighter. . .

Ingredients for 4 people

500 g fresh smoked haddock – skin removed
500 g fresh haddock – not smoked – skin removed
a handful of cooked peeled prawns (optional)
6 medium potatoes.
30 g plain flour.
1 medium sized leek trimmed and sliced into 1 cm discs
Handful of chopped curly parsley
5 threads of saffron
a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter
You’ll need a saucepan, a large flat-bottomed frying pan and an ovenproof dish.

What to do. Roughly speaking:
Preheat the oven to 220oC
Boil the potatoes and mash them with butter and milk – add salt to taste.
Fry the leek slices in olive oil in for a couple of minutes and then add about 250ml water, the chopped parsley and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the leeks from the liquid with a slotted spoon and place in the ovenproof dish.
Place the saffron threads and then the fish into the liquid in the pan and poach (gently simmer) for about 7 minutes.
Lift out the fish, break it up a bit and mix with the leeks in the ovenproof dish.
Pour the liquid into a jug and set it aside. Melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle on the flour and stir it with a wooden spoon. Gradually add back the liquid, stirring all the time so that it thickens but doesn’t get lumpy. Pour this over the fish and leeks in the bottom of the roasting dish. At this stage you can also add the prawns if you’re using them.
Spread the mashed potato over the top and place in the oven for about 30 minutes – if you use a clear dish you should be able to see the sauce bubbling around the fish.

If you want a cheesy topping, sprinkle grated cheese over the mash about 10 minutes before it’s ready.

My immune-system-supporting breakfast.

There’s an increasing body of evidence to suggest that if we are *vitamin D deficient we have a greater chance of catching several infectious diseases, and we’re likely to suffer worse symptoms if we do get them. It’s not too difficult to keep your vitamin D levels up in the summer if you can get plenty of your skin surface area out into the sunshine for just 10 minutes (if you are fair skinned) and 30 minutes (if you have dark skin), but in the winter you’ll need longer because not only is sunlight weaker and scarcer but you probably don’t want to be strolling around the park in your shorts and sleeveless top when the temperature is in single figures. With Covid 19 restrictions on travel even those of you who could afford to probably can’t fly off to warmer climes to escape the northern European winter, so we’re all going to need to boost our vitamin D intake by adjusting our diet.

I went out for a walk/run this morning, and there was a little feeble sunshine between the clouds, but probably not enough to boost the vitamin D levels even of this pale pink human, so I came home and made scrambled eggs with chopped smoked salmon (2 eggs, 2 slices of salmon). The kosher (Manchester Beth Din) smoked salmon from Steve Hatt is my absolute favourite; tasty and not too salty. Egg yolks and salmon (as well as other oily fish) are both good sources of Vit D and considerably cheaper than a flight to the Caribbean.

The best natural source of vitamin D for you vegans is probably mushrooms, but they need to have been grown in sunlight, not indoors.

Small edit to this post: I ended my eating day by adding Vitamin D boosting mushrooms to the Stir Fry Recipe which will also support my immune system by adding variety to my Elder Microbiome. You’re welcome.

*Nerds who want some of the science on this might want to start with The Lancet review of Vitamin D and Covid research Volume 8, ISSUE 7 July 01, 2020 and Tim Spector’s book, Spoonfed.

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 21: seared sesame tuna.

Here’s another one that’s good for your gut microbiome.

Ingredients for 1 very hungry person or 2 normal humans:

1 large tuna steak

Juice of 1//2 lemon

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

What to do, roughly speaking

Pop the tuna steak in the freezer for an hour. This will make it easier to cut.

Cut into slices about 2cm thick

Place on a plate onto which you have squeezed lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds. Don’t overdo the sesame seeds as the flavour is very strong and can overpower the tuna if you’re not careful. Leave for a few minutes then turn the fish over to coat the other side in lemon and sesame.

Make sure the tuna is completely de-frosted.

Heat the mixed olive and toasted sesame oil in a frying pan

Gently place the tuna slices in there. Sprinkle on the soy sauce and after 2 minutes, carefully turn the fish pieces over

Cook for another minute (a little more if you prefer it cooked through, but I think it’s much tastier if still raw in the middle).

Serve on a sheet of seaweed with a dollop of wasabi and a little extra soy sauce to taste.

I added green beans – boiled for 5 minutes and then drained and tossed in oil and garlic….

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 20: microbiome-friendly stir-fry.

I received a few questions after the microbiome piece about what constitutes “fermented foods”. In short, fermented foods have been partially broken down by micro-organisms such as yeast and bacteria. They tend to be tasty and aromatic. One of the most familiar fermented foods is miso, and instant miso soup is is one of the few instant, “just add water” products that I buy. (Kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, beer, cider and, luckily for me, wine are also fermented.)

Today’s recipe is a fine example of a microbiome friendly meal which is also vegetarian. (Vegan if you go for vegan noodles instead of egg noodles). And to make it even better you can serve it with a gut-microbiome-diversity-encouraging glass of white wine.fullsizeoutput_2b6aIngredients for 2:

2 handfuls green beans (about 20 beans).

6 broccoli stems

1/2 onion – sliced

1 red pepper – seeded and sliced

2 cloves garlic – chopped finely

Thumb-sized piece of ginger root – chopped finely

1 small red chilli – chopped finely

2 nests of fine egg noodles

1 sachet instant dark miso soup (I used an organic brand with added tofu and ginger)

Soy sauce to taste

1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

What to do, roughly speaking:

Wash and trim the beans and broccoli and cook them for about 6 minutes in 500 ml water. Remove the veg from the water with a slotted spoon, set aside and keep the veg  water to cook the noodles and miso soup (this adds a little more flavour to the broth).

In a frying pan, heat the combined olive and sesame oil. Fry the onions and sliced red pepper for a few minutes until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Turn the heat down a bit and fry for 2 or 3 minutes more. Add a splash of soy sauce and fry for another minute. Add the cooked beans and broccoli. Stir fry this mix for about 5 minutes until it’s all heated through.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in the vegetable water for 4 or 5 minutes (according to the instructions on the packet) and for the last minute add the miso soup. Stir well

To serve: place the stir fry veg into the bowl you’re eating from, lift the noodles out of the broth with a pasta serving spoon (see pic) and then pour the miso soup over everything.




Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 19. Stir fried prawns with tequila and chilli.

After Tuesday’s blog on microbiome diversity, age and diet, it seems appropriate to feature something colourful, varied and with a Mexican vibe. And super simple.


Ingredients for 2.

8 jumbo prawns – heads, eggs and black threads removed.

1 red pepper – seeds removed and sliced

medium onion – sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic – chopped very finely

1 small red chilli – chopped finely

1 tbsp olive oil

a little toasted sesame oil

1 shot tequila

1 tbsp soy sauce

What to do:

Heat the mixed olive and sesame oil in a frying pan until hot but not smoking

Add the onions and fry for 3 or 4 minutes,

Add the garlic, place a lid on the pan, turn down the heat and cook for another few minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions and garlic are soft

Turn up the heat again, add the sliced pepper and cook for another couple of minutes

Then add the jumbo prawns fry hot for a few minutes, add the tequila shot, then turn down the heat, cover and cook stirring occasionally until the prawn shells have turned completely pink and slightly crispy.

Serve with rice and add a little soy or chilli sauce to taste.

You can peel the prawns to eat them if you want, but the shells are edible and tasty, and apparently good for lowering cholesterol.